This paper makes the case for an environmental justice approach to the practice and study of participation and effectiveness in agrobiodiversity governance. It is argued that, in order to understand the conditions under which participation leads to improved outcomes, the concept has to be rethought, both from a political and a methodological perspective. This can be done by applying an ex-ante environmental justice approach to participation, including notions of distribution, recognition and representation. By exploring the approach through empirical examples of participation in biodiversity and environmental governance, a research framework is outlined, attempting to bridge normative and practical approaches to environmental justice, and tested on two cases of agrobiodiversity governance in Western Europe.